‘Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high’

Dave Guy-Gainer, second from left, of Forrest Hill celebrates with Army Major Margaret Witt, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis and Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach after this morning’s DADT repeal signing ceremony. (Meghan Stabler)

We just got a call from Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” who’s really become the face of the push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in North Texas over the last few years.

Guy-Gainer, a gay retired Air Force chief master sergeant who serves on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was one of about 500 people who attended this morning’s signing ceremony for the bill to repeal DADT.

Guy-Gainer said he would have driven to D.C. for the ceremony if he had to, and he was the 12th person in line this morning outside the Department of the Interior.

“Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high in that room,” Guy-Gainer said. “You couldn’t help but shed a tear in there. It was just such an overwhelming feeling of weight being lifted and equality finally happening.”

Guy-Gainer said it was great to see “40 years of gay activists” assembled together, many of whom he’s met over the last decade at functions around the country — alongside lawmakers who’ve worked so hard to end the policy.

“For the first time in a long time I really said the Pledge of Allegiance with feeling,” Guy-Gainer said. “I gave a thumbs up to Sen. Lieberman and he gave me a victory sign back. … Looking at the kids around me. Dan Choi and I were talking for a while. …

“Another one was the standing ovation that [Rep.] Patrick Murphy got,” Guy-Gainer said, recounting some of his memorable moments from the ceremony. “I think he got more applause than the president. He was the real hero in this. …  He fell on his political sword for us.”

A year ago when we interviewed Gainer, he said if repeal didn’t happen in 2010, he’d “implode.” So what will he do now that it has finally happened?

“We still have transition to do. We still have to get the certification. We’ll still probably have some legal battles in the courts,” Guy-Gainer said. “There’s still more work to be done.”

—  John Wright

House OKs standalone bill to repeal DADT

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 15 to approve a measure to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The vote was 250-175. It was the second time this year the House approved such a measure. In May, the vote was 232 to 180.

The measure will now go to the Senate where it is expected to reach the floor sometime next week.

“Today’s vote by the House of Representatives provides another resounding indication that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can and should be repealed legislatively this year,” said a statement issued by several pro-repeal groups. “With this second vote in favor of repeal, the House joins our top military leaders, a super-majority of Americans, the President, and a 60-vote majority in the Senate in agreeing that it is time to give the Pentagon the power to carry out its carefully crafted plans for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. With the Pentagon Working Group report in hand and the Secretary of Defense pleading for Congressional action, there is no more time for excuses — the Senate must follow the lead of the House and pass the bipartisan repeal legislation championed by Senators Lieberman and Collins before the end of the 111th Congress.”

Groups issuing the joint statement were the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans, Stonewall Democrats, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United and Third Way.

The House vote may have confused someone just tuning in to the debate because it appeared, on the surface, to be a debate about a small business bill. But that bill, which has been approved by both houses but not sent to conference, was gutted and language from a DADT repeal bill was inserted. This new language was introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., as a standalone repeal bill Tuesday, as a way of encouraging and speeding up the passage of a similar standalone bill in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the floor early in the debate to urge passage of the measure and cite polling data released Wednesday showing 8 out of 10 Americans support repeal.

“It is my hope to encourage the Senate to take this long overdue action,” said Pelosi.

Rep. Murphy, urging support for repeal, said, “Enough of the games. Enough of the politics. … This vote is about whether we’re going to continue telling people willing to die for our freedoms that they need to lie in order to do so.”

Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., controlled debate for Democrats and led with remarks saying, “The time to act is here.” Davis is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Change is never easy but it rarely is as necessary as it is today,” said Davis. “If we miss this opportunity to repeal this law, history will judge us poorly.”

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who will be the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee beginning in January, expressed “strong opposition” to the repeal measure. He lamented the committee was not being given an opportunity to hold its own hearing on the Dec. 1 report submitted by the Pentagon. The Senate Armed Services Committee held such a hearing on Dec. 2 and 3.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., urged voting against the repeal measure to provide the military with more time to “deal with this in their own way.”

Many of the Republicans who spoke lamented the fact that Congress has yet to pass the annual Defense Authorization bill, suggesting that debating the DADT repeal was somehow interfering with that bill. The irony, of course, was that Republicans in the Senate blocked consideration of the Defense Authorization bill, in large part because it included DADT repeal.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., called Republicans out on that, saying they’ve repeatedly blocked consideration of the defense bill. He also argued that it’s not servicemembers who are uneasy with the change, but Republican members of Congress.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., also spoke in favor of repeal, saying the current policy is un-American.

The Senate last week fell just three votes short of moving to consideration of the issue through the Defense Authorization bill, which includes repeal language. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempts to bring it to the floor of the Senate in the next few days, it will still need 60 votes.

West Virginia activists and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network delivered 800 petitions to the offices of West Virginia’s new Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, on Wednesday, hoping to reverse his recent vote against consideration of DADT repeal. Manchin, the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to keep a filibuster going last week, said he voted no because he hadn’t had enough time to review the issue.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said last week she would have voted for cloture on the defense bill had she been in the chamber during the vote. And Sen. Scott Brown. R-Mass., has said he would vote for cloture after the Senate completes passage of a bill to extend tax cuts. Sen. Olympia Snow, R-Maine, also announced her support for DADT repeal on Wednesday.

The Senate on Wednesday passed the tax cut extension bill and then moved immediately to consideration of a new arms control treaty (START). Some are predicting the House will soon pass the tax cut bill, too, fulfilling a Republican Party demand that has prevented consideration of DADT repeal and other issues.

One troubling development for repeal — though not one that is expected to deliver much punch — was a statement Tuesday from U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Amos. Amos told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that he thinks repeal threatens the lives of Marines in combat because a soldier’s being gay presents a “distraction” to Marines and “distractions cost Marines’ lives.”

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction,” said Amos. “I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [Army Hospital] with no legs.”

President Barack Obama issued a statement Wednesday night applauding the standalone repeal bill’s passage.

“Legislative repeal is supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Obama said. “The process contained in this legislation allows for a smooth and responsible repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in a way that maintains good order and discipline in our military ranks. Indeed, all of the Service Chiefs have said that when this law is changed , they will implement an orderly transition effectively and efficiently. As the comprehensive study by the Department of Defense clearly shows, we can move to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and our national security.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

Wounded gay Texas Marine: Amos ‘spit on me,’ and I wish Obama would ‘fire his ass on the spot’

Eric Alva

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay wounded veteran from San Antonio, today responded to Marine Commandant Gen. James F Amos’ comments on Tuesday suggesting that repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” would lead to casualties.  Alva became the first casualty of the Iraq war in 2003 when his leg was blown off by a land mine. From The Advocate:

“He pretty much spit on me, my Purple Heart, and my 13 years of service,” Alva said of Amos Wednesday as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a stand-alone repeal bill — one sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy, a fellow Iraq War veteran who lost his reelection bid in November. “I would definitely ask Amos for a meeting to explain his comments, and I’d bring my Purple Heart with me.”

Responding to questions from reporters at the Pentagon, Amos, who was appointed to the position by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in June but is at odds with the White House on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Tuesday: “Mistakes and inattention or distractions costs Marines lives. … I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” (Read Stars and Stripes coverage of the remarks here.)

Alva, 39, called Amos’s behavior insubordinate and reminiscent of the conduct of another four-star general: Stanley A. McChrystal, who resigned under pressure in June after Rolling Stone published remarks attributed to Gen. McChrystal and his aides critical of senior administration officials.

“I wish Obama would invite [Amos] to the White House and fire his ass on the spot,” Alva told The Advocate.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: White House OKs DADT plan

There was huge news out of Washington on Monday night, as it looks like the White House has signed off on a proposal to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” by delaying implementation of the change until after the Pentagon completes its working group study.

The proposed repeal of DADT has been in doubt for weeks, after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was opposed to lifting the policy before the study is completed in December. However, this green light from the White House paves the way for the House and Senate to take up the repeal later this week.

The White House on Monday night issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the delayed implementation proposal, which was submitted by congressional leaders who are committed to a legislative repeal this year.

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement. “The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.

“If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months,” Sarvis said. “This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.”

—  John Wright